Australian crooner Slow Dancer (the moniker for Simon Okely) saddled into a nice groove with his latest album In A Mood. Throughout the full-length, Okely mentioned that he pushed himself to go more ambitious and more expansive with his sound. Incorporating new instruments such as drum machines and elegant strings, In A Mood is hopelessly romantic and soft to the touch of the ear.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up Okely to talk more about Slow Dancer, just how much musical influence he picked from his parents, and how a relocation to the bustling city of Melbourne changed his life.
Your parents listened to quite a collection of 60s/70s rhythm and blues. What was it about those musicians that captivated you when growing up?
To be honest, not a lot. It wasn’t a diet of Nina Simone, Wilson Picket and Al Green, it was pretty station wagon rock kinda stuff. I hated the Doobie Brothers for ages, and thought Steely Dan where horrible. Van Morrison just seemed to be synonymous with driving to the beach on holiday’s so he kinda got a tick of approval from my child self. It really wasn’t until I was older when through his various interviews, Nick Cave gave me permission to like the Carpenters and I suddenly saw my childhood soundtrack very differently. Plus by then I was listening to everything blues, and loved how I could then see how the blues informed those artists. I also adored The Blues Brothers – to this day it is the only musical I can stand. They wore raybans at night, had slim fit suits and white socks, gave zero fucks, ate toast for dinner – as a good boy from the ‘burbs, I was captivated.
Your fondness for the city of Melbourne runs deep. What have you learned about yourself since moving to the town that continues to make stay enchanted with it?
I fell in love at first sight. I like the way the weather gives you a cold shoulder, but the people give you a warm embrace. People go into the city and do things, they invest their time in others, and in art of all forms. People are from all walks of life too, lots from interesting birth countries, everyone has a story, and people here in the city are for the most part, less afraid of the ‘other’.
Being a multi-instrumentalist, you incorporate a wide range of sounds within your recordings. Have you ever thought of assembling a band?
I have. And I have been in bands, as the writer, and as the hired gun. I am a kind, polite, control freak. It’s better when others don’t get in my way, for their safety and mine. They quite simply can’t hear it like I do.
You are a social worker during the day. What’s the story behind choosing to go down that path?
Well I’ve always had an interest in criminology and social justice. I probably went down the social work path because I’m one of those people who has heaps of empathy. Its a tool I use in both my careers. It’s my biggest strength and my occasional weakness.
How long was the recording for In A Mood?
I did some of the initial writing whilst traveling around Europe for 6 months, but I recorded it proper over the space of about 12 months. When I got sick of recording, I would go to work, when I got sick of work, I would record. It was a slow process, but It makes me happiest. Plus the rent gets paid on time that way.
Your lyrics for In A Mood are sensual and soft; tales that explore the many stages of romance and relationships. Have you found some of real life experiences coming into the lyrics?
Absolutely, I tried for brutal honesty with this record. I struggle at times with performing some of the songs because of it. But I’m one of those old romantics that think it is the responsibility of the artist try and capture nothing less.
You have some dates here in the States coming up. What are hoping to take in during your tour?
I love the states. Traveling by road is my favorite way of taking them in too. I adore Chicago because of my affinity with Blues and Jazz, and criminology. I cant wait to get back to the Green Mill!
Slow Dancer’s latest In A Mood is out now via ATO Records.